Thursday, October 9, 2008
It’s a molasses taffy with a pocket of peanut butter in the center. They’re wrapped in black or orange wax paper.
This bag is from Melster, but my favorite brand is Necco that makes them under the Mary Jane monikker.
At only 99 cents though, it was hard to pass up the opportunity to try another variety.
The ingredients list seems impossibly long:
Is it just me or is that may contain list a little scary? What the heck is sodium hexametaphosphate?
Oh, here, Wikipedia has some info:
So it’s an emulsifier, a deflocculant for ceramics, tooth whitener and water softener! But who knows if my saliva will have fewer dissolved minerals and my teeth white because I don’t know if it’s actually in there.
Have I digressed enough?
Basically these are worth about 99 cents. The peanut butter flavor doesn’t pop and the molasses aspect of the chew is barely noticeable.
I’ll probably finish the bag, but I don’t think I’ll buy them again. If I’m going to have these as a treat only once a year, I want them to be as memorable as possible, even if I have to pay a dollar fifty.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
There are many surprising things about Circus Peanuts. In fact, everything is so incongruous that there’s nothing that’s not surprising. That’s how jam-packed full of nonsense they are.
They’re shaped like peanuts, big big peanuts in the shell. But they’re orange in color. The orange color bears no relationship to the flavor, banana. And why even call them Circus Peanuts? Because they’re jumbo sized and you might feed them to an elephant ... come on, that’s a serious stretch.
They’re one of the most enduring candies in the United States, made first in the 1800s. Kind of like the Candy Corn of marshmallows, no one really knows when they started for sure. Except in the case of Candy Corn where many companies have tried to take credit, no one really bothers to try to brand Circus Peanuts. You don’t even see a TM after the name! No one knows the history of Circus Peanuts because everyone is so confused by them that they wouldn’t even know where to begin.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to clear much up. We can all continue to live in blissful mild confusion (and perhaps irritation that so many niblets of corn are wasted on so many Circus Peanuts).
Circus Peanuts are made by at least four different companies in the United States: Brach’s, Melster, Farley and Spangler. Melster, based in Wisconsin makes more than Brach’s & Spangler put together, though often you don’t see them packaged under the Melster brand, they’ll be done for grocery stores and drug store chains or maybe just found in bulk. In this article from 2003, it turns out that Spangler alone makes nearly 4 MILLION POUNDS a year. What? Who the heck is eating all these ... or are they just used as decoration or perhaps packing materials.
Circus Peanuts are shaped like peanuts, usually light orange/peach in color and banana-flavored. When fresh, a bag of Circus Peanuts can smell more like fingernail polish remover. When stale they can smell like, well, nothing at all. The artificial banana flavor must be some volatile compound that evaporates when exposed to air or perhaps a fierce stare.
Technically they’re a marshmallow: they’re sugar, corn syrup (and/or high fructose corn sweetener) and gelatin with some color and flavor thrown in. The gelatin helps the whipped sugar keep its foam. But instead of being extruded as most marshmallows are, these are molded, which might explain some of their density. Because of the high amount of corn syrup in them, they’re rather moist when fresh and can become stale and pretty firm. They’re not quite smooth in texture like most marshmallows, instead there’s a bit of graininess to them. The look like they’re made of fine porcelain of terra cotta. They can even make that clinking sound if you wait for them to get very stale.
I have bought Circus Peanuts before, usually when I find them ridiculously on sale, like 25 cents for a 10 ounce bag. Then I open the bag, get woozy from the fumes and remember why I don’t hang out in nail salons. Then I eat one or two and curse myself for buying them. Later I’ll find myself sneaking into the bag and eating them one or two at a time. When eaten with other candy or salty treats like popcorn, they’re not so bad. (Try Twizzlers or Cheetos.) Not a ringing endorsement.
If there’s one thing to be celebrated about Circus Peanuts it’s that they led to the creation of Lucky Charms. A General Mills team was charged with creating a kids cereal in only six months. So they sat down with everything available to them, from Cheerios and Wheaties to a bunch of candy from the store shelves (apparently that’s what a kid’s cereal is made from). They put bits of stale Circus Peanuts (now called “marbits” in the industry for marshmallow bits) in a sugared Cheerios and everyone loved the idea. A cartoon mascot and bit of Americana was born. So if you find yourself stuck with some extra Circus Peanuts, perhaps chop them up and throw them in your breakfast bowl.
Some brief facts:
One Circus Peanut has 35 calories
Circus Peanuts are 99% carbs
Each Circus Peanut weighs approximately 9 grams
Circus Peanuts come in other colors and flavors
Other thoughts around the ‘net:
Bad Candy - the ultimate hate letter to Circus Peanuts
Spangler Orange Jello Dessert with Circus Peanuts - someone please make this and take a photo!
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Eek! The end of the week is coming and I still have oodles of Easter candy left to review. Time to double up!
The eggs themselves are about half the size of an actual chicken egg (sliced longways), so they don’t sit quite right in the egg carton. In fact, if you don’t carry the carton horizontally, they’ll all roll out of their little pockets. But not with the messy effect of real eggs. At 45 calories per egg and only 1.5 grams of fat they’re not a bad little treat for someone looking for a little chocolate and a bit more interaction satisfaction than 45 calories of straight chocolate can give.
The marshmallow inside is bouncy and light, not terribly moist. The chocolate outside wasn’t eggciting, just a rather unremarkable coating of plain dark sweet chocolate. The first one I ate (the one pictured) tasted rather like the carton they were in ... a little chemical-y. So for my next tasting I took them out of the carton and left them on a little plate for a half an hour. You know, “to breathe.” That little airing out helped. Now they taste sweet and flavorless. Not bad ... not eggstraodinary by any means, but I only paid 99 cents for the carton of twelve ... what could I have been eggspecting?
Rating: 4 out of 10
After I picked up the carton of Marshmallow Eggs, I found more of the Melster marshmallow line at the 99 Cent Only Store. They had the plain eggs in individually wrapped packets like this as well as these Caramel Marshmallow Eggs. There are only 6 eggs in this package and it doesn’t even weigh as much. But I still considered the price more than reasonable.
Where the plain eggs were only 45 calories each, the addition of caramel here makes them 60 calories though still only a gram of fat. I’m guessing the difference is that the caramel eggs are just a little denser (though the same size).
While I wanted to like these, they had a latexy quality ... and I don’t mean the texture. They tasted like someone had just painted my mouth. That fresh paint smell was coupled with the taste of cereal, maybe corn flakes.
So, maybe these needed the same “airing out” ... and that’s what I did. A half an hour out of the package. Ugh, it still tasted like a can of latex wall paint (maybe ceiling paint, my palette isn’t that sophisticated when it comes to interior coatings).
Now, I recognize that I’ve not reviewed candies for fans of paint fumes, so consider this your first whole hearted recommendation.
For those of you who are not fans of sitting around smelling the paint dry, well, I’d advise sticking to the plain eggs or splurge for Russell Stover or even better See’s.
Rating: 2 out of 10
More about the history of the Melster Company which is now owned by Impact Confections (makers of Warheads).
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.